Friday, May 31, 2013

Cemetery Log Date: May 31, 2013

A distressing finishing to CaDiM, but the best reminder that historic cemeteries are fragile and endangered.  

Oaklynn Cemetery in Edgewater is a place that comes in and out of the news every decade or so.  It is the resting place of many early to mid 20th century African-Americans in this southern Volusia County city.  The records for the cemetery are lost, so the exact number of those interred is impossible to know.  The cemetery measures about 6 acres, but only one acre is accessible thanks to the clean up efforts of the descendants and volunteers who have come forward. 

One such volunteer is David Cooper.  I had the chance to sit down with David, his cohort Shauntay, and descendant Gwendolyn Tobler this week.  I was struck by the commitment of all three, and many of those mentioned but who I have not met yet, and their future vision for the cemetery.  While covered in dense brush and scrub, I could imagine a place where descendants (and adoptees like David and Shauntay) could walk the grounds, tell stories of those not too long gone, and meet several times a year to share sweat as the continue to maintain the grounds.

For David and the families, this day seems far off.  As was recommended with San Sebastian yesterday, a Friends of Oaklynn Cemetery 501c3 needs to be established for sustained, coordinated efforts.  They will need to work with the landowner to establish regular clean up days so the families can visit and tend to the graves.  They will also need to set up a trust, or some way to carry donations into the projected future so there are funds for maintenance.  Oaklynn is an excellent candidate for grants in aid and for future preservation student projects.  Many of the crypts are so badly damaged, they are beyond re-pointing.  They will need to be restored so they may enclose the ground intended to preserve the memory of a loved one lost.

Over the past month I've heard a lot of praise and blame surrounding cemeteries.  One of the most hurtful moments was last week.  While talking about a vandalized cemetery a man approached me to listen in and ask questions.  His ears were open, his mind concerned, until he could confirm the cemetery I spoke of was not "his" family cemetery.   Then he walked away.  Cemeteries like many of those featured this month rely on upkeep and maintenance by a party willing to assume the responsibility.  It makes sense when the party are descendants, and it gives me great hope when they are not. Historic cemeteries are everyone's responsibility.  Kudos to David and others like him for stepping up, becoming part of the community, and including anyone interested in helping protect our past.

Who: On private property, name intentionally withheld
What: Early 20th C African-American burial grounds with significant vandalism
Where: Runs along Air Park Road in Edgewater near the airport, Map
When: Only descendants have rights to be on property, contact David Cooper to volunteer
  • Without care, and soon, this cemetery could disappear from the landscape
  • Demonstrates importance of frequent monitoring and reporting of cemetery condition
  • Interesting test case for preservation laws, including Chapter 704 which grants access and rights to upkeep to descendents when on private property
    Most of the cemetery is covered in brush, as seen in photo.

    Text: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff.  Images March 2010, submitted to FMSF. 

    For previous posts search: Cemetery a Day in May or #CaDiM

    Intro, May 1: National, May 2: Oakdale, May 3: Murphy's Creek, May 4: Mt. Olive, May 5: Bosque Bello, May 6: Old City, May 7: Espanola, May 8: Tolomato, May 9: Pacetti, May 10: West View, May 11: Magnolia SpringsMay 12: St. Peter's, May 13: Gravely Hill, May 14: Pilgrim's Rest, May 15: God's Little Acre, May 16: Dummet's Grave, May 17: No Name, May 18: St. Monica, May 19: St. Joseph's, May 20:  Old St. Joseph's (Duval), May 21: Sampson, May 22: Fernandez Reserve, May 23: St. Ambrose, May 24: Sons of Israel, May 25: Sanksville, May 26: Huguenot, May 27: Nombre de Dios, May 28: Beresford, May 29: Jones, May 30: San Sebastian/Pinehurst, May 31: Oaklynn

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